Photo Credit: Catie Sas Photography
Hardly anything from my day to day life looks the same as it did a year ago. A year ago, I lived a busy, fast paced life. I woke up early, went to bed late, and crammed in as much life as I could in between. I worked a high pressure job in a software company that was growing at a rapid rate. I sat in traffic a lot. I meal prepped every meal for the week ahead of time. I served in a lot of ministries at church. I did a lot of discipleship. My calendar was jam packed, and I often had to schedule myself time to do menial things like laundry of grocery shopping. I woke up super early just to squeeze in time with God and His Word. My life was consistently on the go. And for a Type-A, get stuff done, task-oriented person, I loved this season of life. I really did. I thrived in moving quickly and achieving high levels of productivity. I jokingly refer to that season of my life as the “tupperware” season – always looking for efficiency, and also, because I ate 95% of my meals out of tupperware containers.
Then I had a baby.
Nothing will hijack your life like birthing a seven pound human. I cannot even accurately begin to explain the dramatic life alteration that happens, but everyone who has had a baby knows it all too well. You hardly know what day it is, much less the actual time. Your life becomes a cycle of three hours, over and over again – eat, wake, sleep. Again and again.
Once the dust settled and I began to feel like a normal human again (which took a solid three months), I quickly realized my life was not going back to the way it was before. I’m still working, but from home, and part time. I’m still serving in ministry at my church, but less of it. I’m still engaged in discipleship relationships, but fewer of them. Life is run less by appointments on my calendar, and more by inner intuition. My life has been forcibly slowed down, and bears little resemblance to what it was a year ago. And I’m loving it.
I’m learning that productivity and efficiency, as much as I love them, are not the most important things in life. Relationships are; relationship with God first, then relationships with others following. I am learning the value of sitting on my back porch with my baby, watching the squirrels chase each other, and daily walks to the neighborhood park. I am loving the discipline of waking up before the sun in the wee hours of the morning to sneak away to Panera, and sip on coffee and spend time with God there. I love inviting people over just because, for no other reason than we love and value them, and want to spend time with them. For the first time in our marriage, we are implementing nightly family dinners around the table, eating home-cooked food served on actual plates instead of tupperware. For that reason, I am calling this season of life my “table” season.
From tupperware to table, much in my life has changed. Reflecting back on the past year, I realize that nearly all of my external circumstances have shifted, but I have not. Sure, I have grown and developed in some ways, but the core of who I am as a person is exactly the same. I am just a girl who loves God, and is making the great ambition of my life to know and love Him. I have learned that what I do does not define me. My role as a wife and mother, my job, my ministries, and my daily schedule do not label my identity. They surely could if I let them, and I know there are times when I allow it. But more than any of the good things or “titles” of my life, I am first and foremost a follower of Jesus. That will never change.
As much am I am loving the “table” season of my life right now, I recognize there will probably be seasons ahead that will look more like the “tupperware” phase. And I am okay with that, even excited by that. God is teaching me to embrace where He has me, not envy another’s life, and to live in contentment of who I am because of who He is. Twenty years from now, my life will look different, but at the core it will always be the same, because my identity is secure and never shifting because of the steadfast love of God. How amazing is that?!
Until next time,
I have a son who has been alive for 81 days. I feed him 8 times a day, which means I have fed him 648 times in his short span of life. Six hundred and forty eight times, and I have NEVER missed a feeding. Not once. Like clockwork, I feed my child and provide to fulfill exactly what he needs. He has never once gone hungry or been without. And you know what’s funny? If I happen to take the bottle out of his mouth for more than four seconds, he starts screaming at the top of his lungs and gives me this pitiful “Mooooommmmm how could you abandon me?!” look. He forgets. He forgets that I am his provider. He forgets that I will do exactly what I have promised. He forgets the 648 times I have previously taken care of his needs, and thinks I will fail him on the 649th.
I have been alive for 9,834 days. All nine thousand, eight hundred and thirty four days of my life, I have had a Provider who has taken care of all my needs. Every single one of them. He has never missed anything. He has shown up every day, and every time. He has never failed me. And like my son, I forget. I forget the 9,834 days behind me, and fear He will forget me on the 9,835th, that somehow His proven faithfulness will become void and no longer apply to me.
My son is teaching me about myself. I see myself in him. I often joke with him “do you really think I am going to leave you here to starve?” Of course not! I am his parent who loves him. It is my joy to care for him.
In a moment of recent anxiety, I began to fear and doubt the Lord’s provision. In the same moment of my doubt, I inaudibly heard Him say “have I ever not given you everything you need? Have I ever failed you?” I was immediately sobered, humbled, and repentant.
My love and provision for my son is an imperfect representation of God’s love and provision for me. I am an imperfect provider and parent. God is the perfect Provider and Father. He never misses and will always do what He has promised. Every time.
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? -Matthew 6:26
Huge thanks to my in-laws, Steve and Darla, for gifting us with airfare and a hotel to San Francisco for a getaway trip before our baby arrives in May! I decided to channel my inner travel blogger to share tips and must sees in San Fran…(lol JUST KIDDING). Since my little blog has been neglected these days, I thought it would be fun to share some pictures from our trip. Enjoy!
We hit up all the touristy stuff Day 1 – Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, Ghiradelli Square, taking a boat tour…and my personal favorite, riding a cable car, which lived up to every ounce of hype and expectation I put on it:
And of course, like any good tourist, we made sure to get as many shots and angles of ourselves with the Golden Gate bridge in the background as possible:
And went on a hunt to find any member of the Tanner family (no luck) but did find their house!
On Day 2, we went to Muir Woods, which is about 10 miles outside of San Francisco. I wish pictures could do it justice. It was beautiful and majestic and felt like we were experiencing the glory of God’s creation.
Afterwards, we stopped by Stinson Beach, which was super deserted (aka the best way to visit a beach):
Day 3 was my favorite. We took a ferry to Angel Island, and riding the ferry was enough entertainment on it’s own:
We looooooved Angel Island! There was hardly anyone there, and we had a blast hiking the mountain there (about 6 miles round trip).
And I can’t forget about the food! James has a classmate from DTS that lives in SF, and he reached out and asked to take us to dinner. He took us to eat at a delicious restaurant, then went above and beyond to give us a gift card for an ocean-side restaurant, which we went to the next night. Thank you, Karl!
Until next time, San Francisco!
At the beginning of 2017, I was convicted to challenge myself to live life engaged. I can be an avoider, and that typically comes out when things get difficult, confusing, or uncomfortable. I realized how much I was missing out on by avoiding tension instead of embracing it, so I committed to myself to be engaged in the present, with whatever is happening, and experience it fully and head on. With that being said, 2017 has been a year with a great amount of growth. As I look back, there’s so much to be grateful for! Here a few highlights:
For the first 3.5 years of our marriage, James and I lived by ourselves in an apartment, which was great and exactly what we needed at that time in our marriage, This July, we moved into a rental house…right next door to some of our best friends…and to add to that, we also got two roommates! For an introvert like myself who values alone time, this sounds like a recipe for disaster, and I feared it would be, but it has turned out to be a huge blessing. We literally ALWAYS have people in our house (sometimes I don’t even know them) and our house has become a hub for hospitality and ministry, and it is so fulfilling. I love when my roommates have girls over for discipleship, or when James has 5 guys working out with him in our garage gym, or when we get to have neighbors over for dinner. It is a revolving, open door, completely void of isolation, and I love it.
Fighting the Good Fight
About a year ago, my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. In line with my commitment to myself to live engaged, I promised to be there, good or bad, for as much of it as possible. This year has been full of ups and downs; way too many visits to MD Anderson in Houston, the complexities of chemo treatments, the long, drawn out uncertainty that comes with a terminal illness. Through it all, God has taught me to live daily, trusting Him, not to worry about the future, and to be thankful for the day He has given us. Most of all, it has been so encouraging to see my Dad have hope in God. He knows Him and trusts Him, and there is nothing that can shake that. Also, he has only become more involved in ministry; serving as an elder at their church, passing out meals to the poor, leading the FCA ministry for their entire region, meeting with coaches for Bible study, and so much more. He lives daily in an attitude of victory, along with surrender, and it is so hopeful to watch.
Oh yeah, a baby!
On September 7th, those pink lines appeared and told us we were going to have a baby! I compare pregnancy to engagement; it is a season of waiting and preparing for a big event in your life, but having zero clue of what it will actually be like. I have also been fortunate to have the easiest pregnancy of all time, so I forget I’m even growing a human inside of me a lot of the time. I love this season though – the anticipation of what is to come, but also savoring what is right now.
Church and Ministry Changes
In October of this year, James was voted in to serve as an elder for our church, which is a huge honor and responsibility. With that has come the weightiness of overseeing the flock of God, which is no small calling. I have loved watching him thrive in this – learning to trust God more, bearing the burdens of a church, and leading in a way that is honorable. To add to that, he is also a full time teacher and a full time seminary student. I always knew I married an extraordinary guy, but I have only become more convinced of that the past year. He stewards his life well.
Also, we successfully passed off the community group we shepherded for 3 years off to some of our best friends to lead so James could focus more on eldership. It felt a little bit like giving up your favorite child for adoption, but it has been so fun to watch them own the group and lead in their giftings, which are completely different than ours.
All the People
I often say that the best parts of life are people, and I mean than sincerely. We have some good people around us – amazing friends, family, and co-workers. I’m sure there are fantastic people everywhere, but I am a little biased to think that we somehow snagged the best ones. I could live in a shack with no income, but as long as I have good people around me, I’ll be happy. I am a relationally driven person, and I thrive with good friendships, which I like to believe I have the best.
Here’s to 2018!
Until next time,
About 10 minutes after I told one of my best friends, Catie, we were pregnant, she was already sending me ideas for a photo shoot. If it weren’t for her, I probably would have just posted a picture of the pee stick to announce our upcoming baby, so I am incredibly thankful for a creative, generous friend who helps beautifully document fun times in our life! Check out more of her work at catiesasphotography.com.
Today I was sitting in Panera Bread preparing for a discipleship meeting, when I read the following verses:
“You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.” -Colossians 1:7-8
I was like “HOLD ON a second, who is Epaphras?!” I am no theologian, but I have read the Bible a time or two and this name has never stuck out to me. I did a quick search on blueletterbible.com and learned that my new friend was listed a total of three times in the New Testament. The first reference is above, and the second two below:
“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.” -Colossians 4:12
“Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you” Philemon 1:23
That’s it. That’s all that is said about him. However, based on these verses, we learn soooo much about a faithful disciple of Jesus. Here’s what we can gather about Epaphras:
- He taught the people at the church of Colossae. He taught them, according to the text leading up to Colossians 1:7-8:
- The word of truth
- The gospel
- Understanding of the grace of God
- He was a faithful minister of Christ
- His ministry is on behalf of the people in the church of Colossae
- He relayed the love the people had in the Spirit to the apostle Paul
- He identified as a servant of Christ Jesus
- He prays to God
- He struggles in prayer – on behalf of his people – always!
- He prays for their maturity
- He prays for assurance in the will of God
- He has worked hard for the people at Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis
- He co-labored with Paul
- He was imprisoned with Paul for the sake of Christ
We don’t know the rest of his story – who or how he was arrested and imprisoned, if he died in prison, or if he was released and continued his ministry. We don’t know anything else about him. We don’t know how he got saved, or what the circumstances were leading up to his ministry. What we do know, based on the Bible, is that this is an unsung hero of the faith. He doesn’t get the fame that Paul has (rightly) received, but he is a faithful, humble hero. He preached the gospel. He built up the church. He labored in prayer. He loved his people. He loved Jesus.
As I sat in Panera today with Hurricane Harvey roaring outside, and the electricity flickering off and on, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for faithful people like Epaphras. Because of people like him, faithfully carrying out the message of Jesus, I, thousands of years later, know Jesus. He is not famous, but he was faithful to the ministry God called him to.
There are tons of people just like Epaphras who we don’t know names of, but who have been faithful disciples of Jesus, and have passed his name on to generations behind them. I want to be like Epaphras; there’s not much said about him, but what we do know is that he loved Jesus, and that legacy is continuing to live on. We are reaping the benefits of his faith. That is so encouraging. The only legacy that will last is one of passing on Jesus, through discipleship, laboring over one another in prayer, for the glory of God. That is my greatest hope for my life. Thank you, Epaphras, for being a great example.
Until next time,
Having a big birthday party and being the center of attention within a large group of people literally is my ultimate worst.nightmare.ever. The stress far outweighs the enjoyment I will have. I am an introvert who love people, but I love people in smaller settings and more 1:1 conversations. The funny thing is, I love to throw big birthday parties for other people, but I hate them for myself. So this year for my 26th birthday, I dodged well intended plans by my friends to throw me a party, and I decided to have the best birthday ever by following these two steps:
Step 1: Tell James exactly what I want. I learned about 3 minutes into our marriage that he can’t read my mind, and expecting him to do so only leads to frustration and fits of rage. So this year, I literally made a list of what I wanted, gave it to him a week in advance, so he wan’t left guessing, and I was happy.
Step 2: Find all the free things. I was smart this year and went online and researched all the places that;ll give you free stuff (this list was my favorite), and used an old email to sign up for all the clubs and memberships and all the other hoops they make you jump through to get free stuff.
With those two main rails in place, I was set to have the best birthday ever, perfect tailored for my introverted, frugal self. This is what I did:
Johnny Beans Coffee
Our cute, local coffee shop advertised a free 12 oz brew for your birthday on their Instagram, so I took a screenshot of it a few weeks ago and had it ready when I walked in on my birthday morning. Upon hearing it was my birthday, the wonderful baristas went above and beyond, and gave me a 16 oz “mocha locha” drink that is approximately 1,200 calories and positively delicious. I sat at a table, read my Bible, and chatted with the friendly people in there. It was the perfect way to kick off my birthday. Way to go at being awesome, Johnny Beans!
I live in Austin, TX, which is the capital for original, creative, cutesy places to eat, and there are probably 400 local options within a 10 mile radius to choose for brunch, but I chose my favorite: Denny’s. My friend Ashley and I have a tradition of going there every couple weeks or so, and I love everything about it: the laid back attitude of the wait staff, the quotes on the coffee mugs, the reasonable prices. When you show your license, they give you a free Slam for your birthday (shout out to my girl Ashley for covering my spinach and tomatoes on my egg whites because APPARENTLY they up charge you for these fancy things).
I am low maintenance and anti-frivolous about most things, so call me a hypocrite, but I LOVE a good massage. I recently left work in the middle of the day because my neck hurt and I “desperately needed treatment.” Listen, I don’t know what it is, but they are magical. This item made my birthday list, and I enjoyed a perfect 60 minute massage courtesy of my mother in law (thanks Darla!).
Enough said. I went to sleep. In the middle of the day. And I enjoyed every second of it.
We decided to be “fancy” for dinner, so James and I hit up Macaroni Grill. I don’t know what says “extravagant birthday dinner” more than coloring on the table cloths. We decided to splurge on the only item we had to pull out a wallet for all day, so we split a meal for one. James also talked the waitress into giving us a free birthday dessert (and they don’t sing to you, so it’s a win-win).
Look but don’t buy
One of our favorite hobbies is walking around Barnes & Noble and looking at books and games we won’t buy. I don’t know why, but we love it and can spend a solid hour reading about new board games and checking out new book releases to keep in mind to buy when they hit the shelves at Half Price Books. We were motivated to play the games we already own, so went home and competed in some very cut-throat rounds of Skip Bo to end the night.
Best.birthday.ever. I’m being serious. Not to mention the coupons for free stuff I still have sitting in my inbox for Maggie Moos, Texas Roadhouse, Red Robin, Feddruckers, Genghis Grill, and Baskin Robbins that are good for the rest of the month. Even more than that, the sweet friends and family who called, texted, wrote me cards, and sent gifts. The best parts of life are the people in it, and I’ve got good people. I am sitting here just relishing in it. Everyone has a birthday every year, so I know it’s not that big of a deal, but it’s so fun to feel celebrated by the people you love. Here’s to Year 26!
Until next time,
My mom loves anything you can attach a tradition to. If there is a way to incorporate a tradition into an event, you better believe she will find a way to make it happen. One of my family’s longstanding traditions is The Birthday Game. Every time a birthday comes around, after we sing and blow out candles, but before the cake is cut, we play “the game”, which is essentially going around the table and verbally expressing our favorite thing and what we love and appreciate about the birthday guy or gal. We have done this for as long as I can remember, and I can think back to several birthdays and recall the things people said they loved about me (including the time James got put on the spot to go first and say what he liked most about me in front of all my family and friends after we had been dating 6 weeks, freezing up completely and saying NOTHING AT ALL, wondering what kind of wacko family this girl he was dating came from).
Growing up with The Birthday Game instilled in me the importance of giving verbal affirmation to others. Sometimes I believe we genuinely think about how much we love and appreciate the people in our lives, but those kind thoughts never get from our heads to our lips because we don’t know how to say it out loud, likely because it can be uncomfortable and awkward.
Recently, I received my bi-annual performance review at work, and I was nervous at best because performance reviews can always be slightly terrifying, but primarily because I could never gauge how my manager felt about me. I knew I was doing well in my position, but I had never received positive feedback from her, so I had no idea if I was meeting her expectations. As she delivered my review to me, I was literally shocked at the things she said. Apparently, she really liked me all this time, saying things like I “boosted the morale of the team”, that she “trusted me completely” and was one of the “best hires she ever made.” I cannot overemphasize the fact I was floored by this. I was skeptical to the possibility that she might have even liked me, and apparently she thought I was an incredible employee! How did I miss that? Because she never made it a point to tell me.
We have all seen mean, hurtful words tear people and lives apart, and we have also seen intentionally placed affirmation spring up life and confidence into people. I really believe that we can the ability to transform and change the course of a life simply with the words we speak. Sometimes we have to embrace the awkwardness of verbal affirmation and just go for it. I guarantee you everyone could probably use a healthy dose of encouragement. We are all secretly hoping for it.
I think it’s easy and safe to send nice text messages or write sappy social media posts about our friends, but I believe it is much more powerful to look people directly in the eyes, without a glowing screen and fanfare of likes and comments, and tell them what you see in them: their gifts, their talents, their strengths, how you noticed what they did, how you believe in what they can do. It may be more uncomfortable, but it is definitely more powerful. Try it. Instead of thinking about what a great mom/teacher/wife//employee/friend so and so is, actually tell them to their face that they are rocking it. If someone has made a huge difference or influence in your life, don’t just tell others about how awesome they are, tell them too. When someone shows kindness to you, lavish them with appreciation. These are all small things, but the ripple effects have the possibility to be huge.
I have become like my mother and now use The Birthday Game as a tradition for all of my friend’s birthdays. I get teased about it, but I insist we play at every birthday party (assuming there’s less than 100 people ;)) because I believe it is important for people to hear why they are loved. It is a silly game, but I can see the look in people’s eyes as they hear affirmation from their friends, and that makes it worth playing every time.
Beyond birthdays, I hope to be a person who finds more things to appreciate than critique, who praises more than complains, and who uses words to build up.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Until next time,